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Is organic meat healthier?

Part of the allure of organic food is the potential for improved nutrition. But studies in the past have tended to focus on organic plant foods. This broadranging meta-analysis of 67 studies puts organic meat to the test

Study under review: Composition differences between organic and conventional meat: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis

Introduction

The past decade has seen substantial increases in consumer demand for organic food, with organic food sales more than tripling since 2004 and accounting for more than 3.5% of total U.S. food sales. This increase has been driven, in part, by perceptions that organic foods are healthier and safer to eat than their conventional counterparts.

Whether these perceptions are true has been evaluated in numerous studies over the past 20 years. Most recently, a systematic review and meta-analysis[1] of 343 peer-reviewed studies published since 1992 found that organically grown crops have significantly greater antioxidant activity and bioactive compounds (phenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, etc.) and significantly less cadmium (a toxic metal) and pesticide residue compared to conventionally grown crops. There was also significantly less protein and more carbohydrate content in organic crops.

Aside from analyses on plant foods, there weren’t any published meta-analyses comparing organic to conventional meat. This information would be helpful for consumers who are deciding whether buying organic meats is worth the extra cost, at least from a nutritional standpoint. Accordingly, the current study was a meta-analysis designed to identify nutritional differences between organic and conventional meats.

Organic sales have been increasing over the past decade, due in part to beliefs that organic foods are healthier. However, most research has studied organic agriculture. The current study evaluated nutritional differences between organic and conventional meats.

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